day 1 (Oslo)
day 2 (Svalbard)
day 3 (Spitsbergen)
day 4 (Walrus)
day 5 (Fann Kapshaw)
day 6 (Polar Bears)
day 7 (More Bears!)
day 8 (Glaciers)
day 9 (Settlements)
day 10 (Going home)

From humid London to never-ending Sun

We have to leave London, and head off into the cold northern climes today -- at 4am, or so. our flight to Oslo is early, so we can meet up with all the rest of the clan arriving from the US, so we're up at the buttcrack of dawn and slouching listlessly in the hotel lounge waiting for ourshuttle back to Heathrow. I say buttcrack of dawn, but I do realie that it never got quite dark, to be honest -- 3:30 am when I dragged myself out of bed looked remarkably like 11pm when I threw myself into bed after a long and leisurely dinner in Notting Hill. I'm not sure it got dark, really -- and I'm getting ready for the midnight sun further north, where the sun never even dips beneath the horizon, it just circles overhead and it looks like mid-day for the whole 24 hours.

It's a bit disconcerting, actually. We spent a few days in St Petersburg last year during White Nights, and after a day or so I get a bit squirrelly and exuberant and cannot sleep. Why sleep? It's light outside all night long!  Midnight? Pfah! It feels like dinner time and everthing is bustling and open and we don't need to sleep! Ever! Three days of that, and we're bleary-eyed and exhausted...I can't imagine a whole summer (Apr to Aug) where the sun never goes down. It must make people a little nuts. For a vacation, its a novelty, but living here must get tiring in the summer....and then deathly zombie-like and depressing in the dark, sun-never-comes-UP winter time. That I cannot even imagine...all day, every day, dark  as the middle of the "night" with no clue what time it is.

At any rate, our flight to Oslo was quick, and we met up with Mark's sisters and their families at the airport, waiting for the rest of the Lindblad group to arrive so we could be transferred to the hotel. At some point, whilst milling around aimlessly waiting for later flights to show up, we realizede it would have been easier and quicker (just not cheaper) to take the train into Oslo on our own. None of us are used to the "tour" sort of vacation, and being herded around and carefully monitored is disconcerting, to say the least. None of us like it much, and chafe at the slow pace, and being effectively buffered from everything that might be slightly different than home. 


That's a but unfair, actually. Lindblad/NG cruises are not your typical cruise, and the passengers tend to the adventurous types, I think, but the process is still the same -- everyone is counted and grouped and directed with constant supervision by a tour person and the suggestion that you will not be going along with the carefully-laid plan is met with surprise and disbelief.  On the schedule was a three hour tour (doesn't that sound ominous?) of Oslo --visiting the Fram museum, the Viking Ship museum, and the sculpture park, all from the tour bus. Can I tell you how much i hate tour buses? Our guide was a bit confused when we all (the family group, that is) said we weren't going to go on the Oslo city tour that afternoon. "But it's a lovely city!" Yes, we know. We were all here last year. We'd rather walk around the city center on our own. Our guide was still not quite sure this was ok, but we persevered.

Which ended up being far more interesting than we thought it would be -- it's Gay Pride Week in Oslo, and the park on Karl Johan's Gate was full of tents and music stages, and raucous partygoers handing out safe-sex kits and dancing.

We tried to find Mark a Norwegian sweater -- he tried on everything int he store that might fit him, and the lovely girl in the shop opened bin after bin and tried to find one that actually fit him well. He's too tall, and most of the sweaters (even the xxl) are too narrow across the shoulders.  Well, the ones that don't look like festive country dress worn only by Folk Park employees, that is. Simple, relatively understated and modern-looking patterns seem to tend to the very slim and lithe among us. So, no go for Mark and a non-scratchy sweater.

Me? Well, I love the Oleana sweaters, but can't quite bring myself to spend 4-500 dollars on an article of clothing. I just can't. Maybe if it massaged me, or provided internet access, or something.

We all had lunch at the hotel while waiting for them to ready our rooms (the Hotel Continental, a very very nice place, indeed) and then went our separate ways. Most of the MN family were jet-lagged and crabby (and I don't envy anyone trying to keep a pair of deliriously tired six year olds awake for a few more hours) and just wanted to crash. We are at least acclimated to the timezone, after a week, so we wandered out. But still, even we were in bed at 10pm (which seemed like 4pm outside) and glad for the triple-glazed and reasonaly sound-proofed windows.

Can I register once again that I am not a fan of just duvets on beds? Too hot covered up, too cold uncovered, can't get enough (or little enough) of me exposed to cool off and sleep comfortably. I need a sheet. I can have a duvet thrown over it, but I need something in between nothing and giant-floofy-down-comforter-thingy that invariably ends up leaving my feet sweaty or my butt hanging out. Hmph.

And it didn't rain in Oslo while we were out, not really. My superpower remains.

Onward to The Arctic!